The first 30-mile section of the Denali Park Road reopened Thursday for private vehicles, a brief window of access for the public over the next few weeks before transit buses return for the season.
The 92-mile road provides the only vehicle access into the 6.1-million-acre Denali National Park and Preserve. The road will not open to its entire length this year as construction continues on a major landslide roughly at the road’s halfway point.
The buses that ferry visitors into the park will return May 20, at which point the road will only be accessible to private vehicles as far as Mile 15 through the summer, according to a statement from park officials. Every year, the road closes due to snow and ice each winter past the park headquarters at Mile 3. It opened this week to Mile 30, the Teklanika Rest Area.
Winter activities like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are ongoing at the park, but conditions are changing rapidly as warmer weather and longer days begin to melt snow, park officials say. Drivers should expect snow, ice and mud on the road, especially in shaded areas.
The Teklanika Rest Area was described as wet but accessible. Campgrounds west of the Riley Creek area remain closed until May 20. Dump trucks will be hauling on the road and the park service advised drivers, bikers and pedestrians not to pass road crew equipment without getting a direct signal that it is safe to do so.
The road generally reopens in late April or early May depending on the snowpack, said Sharon Stiteler, a spokeswoman for the park. Conditions this year are similar to last, she said. The road reopened on April 30 last year.
The road will remain closed near its halfway point through the summer due to ongoing construction at the Pretty Rocks landslide. The landslide rapidly intensified in recent years and officials closed the road at Mile 43 during 2021 because of safety risks. It is expected to fully reopen during the summer of 2025.